This is a land shaped by violent geological activity. Volcanoes, glaciers, raging torrents, and crashing waves have all participated in sculpting this canyon. And yet it sits precisely in the middle of southern France.

Trou de Bozouls, “the hole of Bozouls”, is a large horseshoe-shaped canyon, in the Aveyron in the south of France. 200 million years ago during the Mesozoic era, this area lay beneath the sea, and was gradually covered with silt and eventually a buildup of sedimentary deposits. New mountain ranges including the Pyrénées were forced upward 60 million years ago. The shockwaves of this violent tectonic shift were felt further afield than the mountain ranges themselves, and volcanoes erupted hundreds of miles from the mountain ranges new peaks.

Approximately two million years ago, a procession of ice ages caused colossal glaciers to advance and recede over Europe, and Bozouls was at the centre of this rapid change. The glaciers melt caused rivers rise and fall, creating raging torrents of water to carve out the limestone plateau of Causse Comtal.

The chaotic landscape that we see today is the result of this perfect storm of cataclysmic action. The jagged canyon of Bouzouls is 400 meters across and over 100 meters deep. Over the millennia, the ground healed, and while the striking remnants of the young earth’s dramatic convulsions are still visible, the canyon has settled and gained a green mantle of genteel trees, bushes and grasslands. As if this natural canyon was not spectacular enough, the most striking part of the vista is the medieval town of Bouzouls, which sprang up in the 9th century. The chasm was seen as a natural defensive stronghold, and a castle was built on the edge of the precipice, followed by a church and township.

While the castle no longer exists except for several huge foundation blocks of stone, which are what remains of its defensive walls. However in a charming throwback, the people of the town still call the old village itself ‘’the castle’’. The reason for this being that the town was built around and inside the castles moats and towers. As the town rose, so the castle fell. Eventually buildings of the town spread right up to the precipice edge, imparting the grandeur vista that defines Bozouls today.

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